Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, July 06, 2007


For the next few months I will be posting links and sections of articles that I think are important for redefining the local church for the 21st Century. While this is somewhat a departure from what this blog normally deals with it is still very much related to the future of Adventism.

George Barna on Outreach from Outreach magazine, "Point of View," November/December 2003 ON SOCRATIC EVANGELISM
If I had to describe the one approach to evangelism that seems to consistently have the greatest impact in this postmodern era, it would be “Socratic evangelism.” The basic idea behind this approach is that it takes place in the context of relationship, wherein you engage an unbeliever about an issue of interest to her. It doesn’t have to be a spiritual issue to spark a spiritual conversation. Ultimately, all of our beliefs, values and morals—everything—come back to a basic truth standard. Socratic evangelism gets someone to dig and dig until they get to the foundation of where they believe truth comes from and what that truth is. Of course, there are challenges with this type of outreach. One is time. Hit-and-run evangelism generally does not work in a postmodern culture. But we’ve found people who come to conclusions on their own become really zealous evangelists in their own circles of influence (circles the Church usually doesn’t penetrate). So it’s a phenomenally wonderful thing. But it’s not easy getting there. If we want people to be effective Socratic evangelists, they first have to know their own faith deeply enough to know the right questions to ask. So right out of the blocks, we’ve got a problem because we know that less than one out of every 10 born-again adults has a biblical worldview that serves as the basis of their decision making. So, really, step one is for churches to stop dabbling in discipleship. Jesus didn’t die so that we could dabble in tales and stories and say, “Gee, wasn’t that a wonderful thing He did?” His sacrifice is supposed to transform our lives.

There are a couple of important points here. First is that the conversation is dependent upon first having a relationship with another person. This applies to both people within the church as well as people outside the church. Second the Adventist church has been famous for hit and run type of evangelism. Even many of our Bible studies courses have a type of hit and run attitude where they deal with our unique views and ignore contrary views. But the Socratic evangelists must know the other Christian views as well as their chosen view and the people must deal honestly with the differences. A Christian worldview is not limited to one way of Bible interpretation in fact we have seen from history as well as contemporary experience that beliefs will vary among people. We don't all see things the same way even if we use the same standard. Discipleship does not have to mean all must be uniform in all beliefs within one denominational interpretation. It may be an ideal but worldviews and philosophy are built upon vastly different life experiences and as such we have to expect differences.

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